While bursts of productivity may be easy for most of us, staying productive is another question entirely. This is where your diet can make a big difference. The food you eat can have more of a bearing on your performance than you might think.

So, whether you are a business owner who’s keen to get the most out of their team or a professional looking to optimise their workday – here are some of the foods that can help make you more productive and why they’re so effective.

What role does food play in productivity?

Simply put, food is energy – and choosing the right kind of food is essential when it comes to making the most of your workday. These units are ‘calories’, the fuel that helps keep your organs working, mind sharp, and concentration clear.

Once you have eaten a meal, three key elements known as macronutrients are extracted – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Once in your digestive system, these are broken down in different ways. Carbohydrates are quickly broken down into sugars and added to the bloodstream, providing the quick burst on energy that you get after eating a sandwich or a bowl of pasta.

Fats are used for long-term energy consumption and stored within the body whenever they are needed – think of it like topping up your battery. Proteins take longer to break down and a provide a longer-lasting source of energy for your body. This is used to help the long-term healing of wounds
and allows you to deal with intensive projects over a longer period of time.

Finding the right balance between all three elements allows you and your teams to work more efficiently and have the focus to be productive without risking burnout or frustration.

Why are some foods not helpful?

One of the most desirable states for working is ‘flow’ – this sees you achieve full immersion in your project and work without disruption at peak efficiency. Achieving this state is a popular professional goal, but the route some people can take can cause more problems than they solve.

Sugars: Walk into any software developer’s office and the chances are you’ll be met by heaps of sugary products! Energy drinks, sweets, and more can provide an instant energy ‘spike’ when eaten – something that can be helpful to break through a roadblock of mental fatigue or giving you the
energy to finish off a project.

However, with a spike comes a crash and before long – your energy levels are lower than before, producing a familiar ‘drained’ feeling. These can also have a negative long-term effect on your health, resulting in tooth decay, skin damage, and even risk of heart damage.

Caffeine: Another cardinal sin for many, starting your working day with a takeaway coffee or a big mug from the communal filter can give the kick necessary to dig into your workload. However, our body can become used to caffeine and require a greater concentration and larger amounts to get the same ‘hit’.

Your energy can quickly tilt into anxiety or irritation, as well as regular trips to the bathroom that break up your day. This can lead to a lack of concentration, stomach pains and more until you start to scale back. Scaling back from coffee to drinks like green tea can help you get the same amount of stimulation with the addition of antioxidants and risk of the jitters.

Convenience Foods: A temptation for many, choosing a takeaway or delivery for lunch can save time.

This isn’t limited to hot counter foods, but includes muffins, salami, cereal bars – all foods that are deceptively high in fat.

If eaten to quickly, this can lead to bloating and even the temptation to fall asleep after your meal, making demanding projects or long-term tasks even more difficult to complete. Foods high in carbs and proteins can produce tryptophan, leading to the production of serotonin that can cause sleep –
something that can prove especially ‘dangerous’ on long, intensive conference calls.

What should I pick out?

If you’re keen to work in a sustainable way, there are a number of healthier foods that can be taken to bolster your productivity without bringing risk and actually provide care for your long term health.

These include –

Nuts: These are a fantastic treat to pack into your desk drawer -nuts are a source of natural proteins and fats, can be eaten quickly, and provide the long term energy release that your body needs throughout the day.
Adding these to breakfast or as a light snack throughout the day can help provide focus and concentration – though it is important to remember that they are high in fat and should ideally be a complement for full regular meals or added to meals throughout the day.

Water: Steadily drinking water throughout the day can have a significant positive effect on your concentration. Dehydration can result in a significant drop off in productivity, in some cases as high as 25%.

The brain is 75% water but unable to store fluids, making it essential to provide your brain with the water it needs to complete its work. This allows neural pathways to stay at peak performance and ensure that your hormones and mood are regulated correctly. This enables you to get back into ‘the zone’ when distracted and continue your flow state for longer.

Natural grains: These are ‘slow release’ foods that take longer to release their energy and do so over an extended period of time. Adding items like wheats, oats, rice, or barley to your diet can help provide a ‘full’ feeling that prevents additional snacking or seeking out sugary foods.

These can also come loaded with fibres, minerals, and vitamins that can supplement your diet – easily brought about by choosing the right breakfast foods or sparingly eating cereal bars throughout the day.

Fruits: Fruits are a great source of natural sugars like fructose and glycose. They also comes loaded with water and fibre, letting you benefit from having the odd apple or banana throughout the day.

These are great to add as part of your breakfast or brunch, with grapefruits, pineapples, and blueberries providing helpful antioxidants. Pairing this with a thick yoghurt can also allow your body to access helpful natural proteins, letting you work without overextending yourself and helping to
vary your diet.

Omega 3: Found in fish, Omega 3 fatty acids have continuously proven helpful for concentration, brain health, and a range of long-term benefits. Having two servings a week for lunch or evening meal can help increase your concentration, while also providing a lowered risk of dementia or stroke in the future.

Omega 3 can also be found in fish oil supplements that can be taken during the day and also help combat issues such as RSI or arthritis, with fish oils helping to reduce inflammation – something that many desk workers suffer from on a daily basis.

What other options are available?

If you are keen to improve your productivity, there are a number of other choices available to help your teams improve their overall productivity, including-

Plan and Pace: If you are reluctant to change your eating habits, consider when in the day that you are eating and the amount you intend to consume. Starting the day with a meal that provides a steady energy release throughout the day can help carry you through to lunch time. With the body using 25% of your daily energy it is important that you do not overindulge and waiting to feel ‘full’ after a meal can help overeating and the downturn in effectiveness that accompanies it.

Training: Of course, some solutions may not require the use of food at all. Taking part in time management training or understanding business best practice can allow you to think strategically about your work. This can be as simple as tackling the most difficult task at the start of the day,
understanding and deploying timeboxing techniques, or identifying what time of the day you are most productive and eliminating distractions during that period.

Technology: If you’re still struggling, consulting with a professional provider can help streamline your existing working practice. This can be as simple as dealing with pain points in your existing processes, providing technical and hardware solutions, or working with you to understand your infrastructure and provide support in areas that truly need it most.

What next?

If you want to learn more about improving productivity within your business, our team at Practical Software are here to help. With many years’ professional experience, we work with you to deliver a bespoke solution that suits your unique professional needs – letting you tackle problems facing your business and ensure that your teams are ready to face the future, no matter what they’ve had for lunch!

If you want to learn more, you can view our list of products and services in full from here. Or If you have specific questions or queries that you would like to address, please do not hesitate to get in touch directly and let us know exactly what you need to optimise your daily working practice.

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Payroll is a fundamental pillar of any company. It is a list of the company’s employees, and the amount of money that they are paid.

It is essential that payroll is accurately calculated, as mistakes can result in employees being over-paid or underpaid. Or worse – a payroll mistake can land the company in trouble with HMRC.

So how is payroll calculated?

Payroll is calculated by recording each employee’s salary or hourly rate. For salaried employees, a monthly pre-tax total should be established. For those employees who are paid by the hour, each hour of work should be documented along with their hourly rate and any additional pay that they
are owed for working unsociable hours.

If the employee works overtime, carries out extra responsibilities or receives a pay rise, this needs to be updated on the payroll instantaneously to avoid errors further down the line. For salaried employees, the number of hours of overtime should be listed on their payslip.

Similarly, if an employee has taken unpaid leave or has failed to meet the terms on their contract in a way that results in a pay reduction, this needs to be reflected on the payroll.

Next, you have to calculate any deductions that need to be made. These will include income tax, national insurance, and – in some cases – student loan repayments and pension contributions. Any tax relief or company contributions to the pension scheme should also be included here.

You then need to calculate the company’s national insurance contribution. All employers pay a flat rate of 13.8 per cent earnings higher than £183 per week.

Next, you need to produce a payslip for each employee that contains all of the above information.

This provides the employee with a record of their pay, taxation and any other additions or deductions that have been made.

And finally, the payroll manager must report the employee’s pay and deductions to HMRC as a ‘Full Payment Submission’. It is essential that proper due diligence has been carried out before you reach this stage, as payroll errors may result in fines or other penalties. For repeat offenders, payroll errors could lead to an audit by HMRC, which can prove to be a time-consuming, costly endeavour for companies of all sizes.

Calculating payroll is the responsibility of the employer, not the employee, and it is vital that you get it right.

Get in touch

Online software allows you to keep track of any adjustments or updates that need to be made to the payroll, while also providing you with a potted history of the company’s financial transactions.

If you want to learn more about how payroll is calculated, our team at Practical Software are here to help. With many years’ experience, we work with you to provide the bespoke care that your business deserves.

You can view our full list of services from here.

Or, if you have additional questions or queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch directly and let us know exactly what you need.

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PAYE – or ‘pay as you earn tax’ – is a UK-wide system that allows employers to deduct tax on income payments to their employees on a weekly or monthly basis. These tax deductions are treated as advance payments of the income tax that is expected to be due by the end of the tax year (5 April).

If too much tax has been collected over the course of the year, HMRC will issue a refund to the employee – via the employer – after the tax year has completed. Similarly, if too little tax has been paid, this will need to be corrected. HMRC often allows these payments to be taken from the
following tax year’s PAYE income, by issuing the employer with a new PAYE code to reflect the new tax repayment requirements.

As the employer, it is your responsibility to keep track of your PAYE payments and to forward the correct payment amount to the tax office.

How is PAYE paid to HMRC?

You can choose to either pay your PAYE bill to HMRC monthly, or quarterly.

If you are paying monthly, you must ensure that full payment of your PAYE bill has been made to HMRC by the 22nd day of the next tax month.
If you are paying quarterly, you must pay you PAYE bill by the 22nd day of the month that follows the end of that particular quarter. For example, the first quarter of the financial year runs from 6 April until 5 July. This means that you need to process and pay your PAYE bill for the first quarter by 22
July.

These payments can be made via your accountant, or directly via CHAPS or online or telephone banking.

However, if you are paying by cheque, you must ensure that the cheque has been made out, signed, dated and placed in the post before the 19th day of the month that follows the month of taxation.

For quarterly payments, the cheque must be sent by the 19th day of the month that follows the month of taxation. So, your PAYE bill for the first quarter of the year (6 April – 5 July) should be posted by 19 July.

If your payment is late, you may incur a fine or penalty from the tax office. It is therefore important to account for any possible delays that might affect the processing of your payment. For instance, if the 22nd day falls on a bank holiday, then you must ensure that the PAYE bill is paid by the previous working day.

Bear in mind that new direct debits can take five working days to begin, while some bank transfers and debit card payments can take up to three working days to process.

Find out more

If you want to learn more about when and how PAYE needs to be paid to HMRC, our team at Practical Software are here to help. With many years’ payroll experience, we work with you to provide the bespoke care that your business deserves.

You can view our full list of services from here.

Or, if you have any additional questions or queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch directly and let us know exactly what you need.

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A crucial administrative task for many businesses – correctly calculating payroll tax is often overlooked as a mission-critical process. However, with so much importance placed on it, it is vital to understand how much you are expected to pay, potential risks, and how validating it can be made
foolproof.

So, how much payroll tax is applied to a business and what are some of the key wrinkles to avoid?

What is payroll tax and how much should I pay?

Payroll tax, or Pay as You Earn (PAYE) is money that is automatically taken from employee wages to account for taxation. The system is designed to capture two key strands of payment – income tax and national insurance contributions.

As with any taxation, this is evaluated based on income and if none of your employees earn more than £120 per week, you are not required to register for the service with HMRC. However, if your employers are outside this threshold, you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed as you put in place
a system to properly track their contributions over time.

On income over £12,500, employees will be taxed at the basic rate of 20% for earnings between £0 – £37000. Above that employers will enter the higher rate band of 40% for earnings between £37501 – £150000 on income over £50K. Finally, employees earning over £150000 will be subject to the
additional rate of 45% – all while factoring in unique allowances for employees.

When it comes to national insurance contributions, these are split into two distinct strands – those that are deducted directly from an individual’s pay as Employee’s contributions, and those that are paid by you the business owner as Employer’s contributions. These are dictated by the individual’s
category band that can be viewed in full from the official government guidance. These are made up from seven distinct categories for employers and employees, making it vital to keep track of what is owed from each employee and you the employer.

These are paid either monthly or quarterly and should be subject to the highest level of oversight, with missing or incorrect payments often causing significant problems for businesses of all sizes.

What risks are there?

Failing to calculate PAYE correctly can often be a huge risk to any business if not handled correctly. Every company is required to directly report on their payroll to HMRC before or on the date of each payday. Depending on the size of your organisation, you can negotiate to move your payments from a monthly to quarterly rota, but this can often be difficult to determine and confirm.

Failing to properly report on PAYE can quickly result in investigation from HMRC, resulting in fines, interest on payments and more. This can quickly eat up additional resource as you move to address the issue, resulting in additional expenditure, potential reputational damage, and even legal action.

In addition, any changes to payroll such as taking on new staff, raises, and key state changes for employees such as retirement or significant promotion should also be lodged. Failing to do so can result in additional complications – costing you additional time and effort to resolve.

How can a digital solution help?

If your team is struggling to organise your payroll work, choosing to deploy a software solution can help streamline painful tasks and provide helpful functionality to minimise resource expenditure.

Some potential advantages include:

Automation: Any quality software solution will allow your processors to streamline difficult tasks or actions. This can be as simple as automatically calculating complex formula, uploading data to cloud storage, or providing prompts and reminders for essential tasks. This will also allow you to customise the system to match your current working practice to allow for easy onboarding and taking ownership of system maintenance and updates.

Payroll Delivery: Using an online platform allows greater control and efficiency when it comes to the storage and distribution of payroll information. A reliable platform will be able to send payroll information in a suitable format to HMRC through email or in a filetype of your choosing – with many systems able to export in XML, PDF, and other widely used formats. This can also enable you to send payslips to your employees and export key statistics about payment details to allow for oversight and payment control.

Validation: While your teams may be highly experienced, mistakes are inevitable when humans are involved. Any quality system will have a number of steps enforced in the payroll calculation process, allowing you to avoid common errors and ensure that typos, incorrect figures, and mis-clicks are not included. These can be deployed in a way that doesn’t slow seasoned users down and makes onboarding quick and simple for new members of staff.

Compliance: In addition to HMRC rulings that payroll information must be stored for up to three years, GDPR compliance is a key concern for many businesses. Replacing the 1998 Data Protection Act, GDPR covers sensitive information or figures that could be used to identify individuals – such as
names, addresses, and NIC details that are present on many physical or digital payslips. Failing to store and handle this data correctly can result in investigations, fines, and the loss of reputational trust. Choosing a suitable system will allow you to remain secure and GDPR complaint at all times –
ensuring that your work is safe from error, investigatory review, or punitive legal action.

What next?

If you want to learn more about how a software solution can help resolve your PAYE issues, our team at Practical Software are here to help. With many years’ professional experience, our teams work with you to provide a tailored solution that suits your unique business needs and challenges.
You can view our full range of services from here. Or if you have
specific questions or queries, you can get in touch directly and let us
know exactly what you need to resolve your payroll issues.

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With the continued lockdown from COVID-19, Practical Software are geared up internally – and utilising our technology to still deliver great customer service. We’re checking in with clients on both a professional and personal level to ensure that they are doing okay through what are undoubtedly stressful times for us all.

Where we can, we are working with our existing clients to ensure that their systems and processes are configured so that they get the best from our software to support their businesses. We’re listening to what you need and our in-house development team are adding new functions and features to the system to help them streamline their working from home processes and to ready them for being back in the office once the lockdown has ended.

We’re still able to run full online demos for those people that want to use their time to explore what options are available to them and will be offering more systems training for our clients once things are back to normal.

As we’ve mentioned before, our opening hours will remain unchanged and we will continue to provide support outside of our core hours via email and social channels. with this in mind, we will be closed for the Easter weekend, 10th-13th April and will be back to normal hours on Tuesday 14th.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to get in touch.

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Modern timekeeping is an essential part of project management. Used for long-term planning, monitoring cash flow, and paying the wages of employees – timesheets are critical in a range of businesses both large and small.

So, what exactly is the history of timekeeping and how is it carried out in the digital age?

What is the history of timesheets?

A formal method of tracking work conducted throughout the day; timesheets are used to record the work carried out on a job by individual workers. Collectively correlated, these allow for payments to be calculated and correctly distributed.

These were first used in the industrial revolution to allow for a quick way to track the progress made by a large volume of workers. As time evolved, this process has been streamlined and now digitised, but essentially, the process remains the same. Once on-site, a worker ‘clocks in’ by using whatever on-site system the employer has in place. This is often tied to the entrance of a site, tying their access to work with their ‘start’ and ‘end’ dates.

late timesheets

These were originally on sheets of paper with days and time laid out. The first example of this appeared in 1888 when William Le Grand Bundy invented the ‘Bundy’ clock. This was used once a worker entered the site, they would slot their individualised card into a machine that would punch a physical hole into the paper. These would then be collected and internally reconciled, letting businesses quickly calculate what was owed to whom. This physical perforation led to the term ‘punching in’, meaning to show up for work and start your day.

What industries was it used in?

Timesheets and physical methods were used in industries that dealt with mass labour, automation, or used complex payment reconciliation. While these were originally deployed to manage payroll, it wasn’t long before employers started using them for management accounting – letting them be deployed for billing on client work and projecting project costs, validating estimates, and overall project management.

This meant they were particularly useful in offices, shops, building sites – often becoming a staple in life from the 1900’s onward.

Who uses it now?

The same companies that benefitted from time tracking still deploy it now, albeit in a high-tech manner. Many construction sites or industrial locations use swipe cards or keycode units to track when individuals enter and exit sites. While ‘punching in’ to get paid is more of a rarity, modern options now double up to allow for security access, metricising data, and providing oversight on patterns or trends that should be addressed or encouraged.

These have even been modified with the use of biometrics in highly-secure sites, with time tracking tied to an individual’s fingerprints, iris, or voice – with multifactor identification deployed. This helps make things more efficient for the individual and helps cut back on fraud or errors when it comes to accounting and reconciliation.

What are the advantages of digital timekeeping?

If a business requires it, digital timekeeping is an exceptional way to drive efficiency throughout a company and provides a range of benefits. However, there are a number of variables that should be considered before making a permanent switch.

Some key positives and negatives include:

Pros

Cost Reduction: Digital time tracking can massively help cut back on the internal resource required to sort, analyse, and reconcile processes compared to an entirely paper-based system. In many pieces of software, this can allow a single account to do in one click what would take days to accomplish on paper.

Efficiency

The process is much simpler to complete for workers and clerical staff and supervisors. Using a digital method makes the process easier for employees with the use of swipe cards or passcodes – or allowing for the uploading of physical sheets to a legacy system. Many platforms also allow you to quickly process payments through generating invoices and payslips.

Management

Digital timekeeping allows project managers to make more realistic estimates and provide key clients and stakeholders with information about work to date. This also makes it harder for employees to fudge the time they are working and ensure that their hours are correctly reconciled without human error.

Analysis

Being able to work digitally allows your team to quickly harvest data about daily work. This leads to insight about working practice and enables supervisors to validate how long projects will take, allowing teams to provide balanced estimates to clients to ensure solid returns.

Cons

Deployment

One of the biggest risks with any digital system is initial deployment, which can be problematic if not specced out correctly. Choosing a reliable provider can help ensure that your implementation goes smoothly and that all the variables that you need are fully considered.

Future Proofing

If a digital system is deployed, it is essential that you discuss the plans and capacity for change that the provider has for the system further down the line. This should include dealing with technical change, software updates and more. Any reliable business will be able to put your fears at rest and confirm how changes would be addressed and the steps involved.

Find out more

If you want to learn more about how digitising your timesheets can help your business, our team at Practical Software are here to help. With many years’ professional experience, our team will work with you to provide the guidance and technical support you need to improve your processes.
You can view our full range of products and services from here. Or if you need additional help and guidance, please do not hesitate to get in touch directly and let us know exactly what you need.

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An essential part of working in any business, correctly allocating time and effort can make the difference between projects being successfully completed or increased cost and resource to get it over the line.

So, what is time management and what are some of the best options available to get the most out
your teams?

What is time management?

Simply put, time management means estimating the time required for a task and completing it within an allocated period.

As much of a learned skill as an art, effective time management can help reduce burnout, ensure that projects are cleared, and help ensure that clients are kept content.

However, given the nature of modern work, it can be all too easy to find deadlines zipping by, estimates proven incorrect, and the need for ‘crunch’ to ensure that commitments are kept – producing poor quality work and the eventual loss of quality staff or embodied knowledge that can be
hard to replace.

Alarm clock on desk

What challenges are faced?

Modern working practice may make it easier than ever to estimate time, but estimating it correctly is incredibly difficult.

The aim of any good time management technique allows the users to break a task down into components and provide a validated estimate on the work, and track progress.

However, the true test of its effectiveness is when humans get their hands on it.

Employees may not have the wherewithal to self-police their own estimates. Some projects may be unique and require over-budgeting, or – as is common in software fields – unpredictable issues may occur that need to be accounted for.

More than anything, a good time management tool should be quick and clean to deploy. Anything that does not immediately ‘click’ with your current practice will inevitably produce friction. A solid tool should allow for a degree of ownership, high level reporting, but also ensure that users are not overly policed.

Bearing this in mind, it’s important to look at some quick wins that can help improve the quality of the time management that takes place on a daily basis.

What tricks work?

While there is no ‘one size fits all solution’ there are a number of options available that can help your teams when they need it most.

Finding the right techniques that work for your teams can involve a significant amount of trial-and-error and commitment from your teams. However, taking the time to properly plan and use some basic tricks can quickly allow you to make improvements. For example…

Manual Triage

Or ‘to do’ lists. This involves taking a look through your schedule at the start and end of the day, letting you prioritise your tasks in terms of importance. This can be as simple as a five-minute check to confirm what needs to be done or a detailed daily meeting to track priorities.

Pros

Allows individuals to become more familiar with their tasks and role within company.

Cons

Can be a struggle when multiple individuals and interconnected roles are involved.

Task Prioritisation

The next step up from triage, once team members are familiar with breaking down tasks, it becomes important to prioritise the most important ones. Also known as ‘eating the frog’ this requires a degree of autonomy from team members, allowing them to stay reactive to change.

Pros

Helps teams stay responsive to change and builds autonomy and responsibility.

Cons

This is built upon a degree of competency in timekeeping. Changing an allocated schedule requires a scale of judgement that may clash with high-level business priorities.

Project Management Tools

The next logical step on from lists, choosing a digital project management tool allows supervisors to view live progress and allocate tasks to team members. This makes remote communication simple and allows team members to self-report, taking the burden of supervision off
managers. However, many out of the box solutions can fail to be fit-for-purpose and costly, often proving a burden or a vestigial practice before long.

Pros

Helps give an at-a-glance overview of work being carried out. Also allows for digital reporting for long-term feedback and insight.

Cons

Can be difficult to ‘onboard’ and a lack of ability to communicate with other office platforms can result in human error or inaccurate reporting on projects.

Timeboxing

At the end of the day, everyone is human. And that means it’s important to take regular scheduled breaks and not ‘over commit’ to a project. While it may be tempting to work extra hours on a project, any additional time spent can significantly increase overtime. The most common is the
pomodoro technique, which has employees working for 25 minute increments and taking short breaks- preventing mental fatigue.

Pros

Keeps work fair and equitable and increases quality of output. Also enforces periods of ‘focus’ and encourages employees to cultivate ‘flow’.

Cons

Requires accurate project estimation and can be difficult to enforce with certain personality types.

CRM solutions

Choosing the right dashboard solution can allow your teams to work together and collaborate more effectively. This is supported by a customisable integrated platform and should – at a minimum – allow you to track effort, commitments, and enable you to segment projects into individual tasks. This should allow for a period of onboarding and testing, enabling team members to tailor and configure the system so that they can help with the training of others.

Pros

Produces a ‘unified front’ that allows for light-touch planning that all can see.

Cons

Some systems can produce a barrier for entry or may not be fit-for-purpose.

Office worker sat at computer

What next?

If you or your teams are struggling to accurately budget your time, our team at Practical Software are here to help. With many years’ professional experience, we work with you to deploy the software solution you need to solve your bespoke issues.

You can view our full list of services and packages from here.

Or if you have specific requests or needs, please do not hesitate to get in touch directly and let our team know exactly how we can help drive efficiency throughout your organisation.

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A long-standing debate in the labour market, the four-day week is increasingly gaining traction throughout Europe and in organisations across the globe. Promising increased productivity and extra time for employee, research has proven that it has genuine potential benefits – allowing businesses get more for less.

So, what exactly does the four-day week include and what are some key benefits – and risks – behind it for your business?

Where did it originate?

While it may not feel like it, the five-day working week is only a relatively new invention. For Western society, this was first brought about through unionisation efforts in England in the 19th century. During this period, factory work was demanding and dangerous, with mechanisation allowing
employees to work longer periods. With Sunday designated as a holy day, workers were broadly exempt from their duties. However, less observant labourers would enjoy a pint or two and turn up and work at a fraction of their capacity – if they even turned up at all, a concept called ‘Saint
Monday’.

Before long, industrialists realised this and offered a half-day on Saturday on the agreement that workers would arrive rested, refreshed, and – perhaps most importantly – sober on a Monday. This was also picked up in the highly industrialised US in the 1930’s under the Ford company – where
Saturdays and Sundays were given to workers to spend as they wanted as a commitment to a 40 hour working week. However, this allowed workers to spend their income on products – many of which went directly back to Ford’s pockets – helping to stimulate growth in the local economy.

The concept of a four day working week – or compressed schedule – has been part of the conversation since the rise of digital technologies in the 1960’s. These stipulate that automation and software improvements can help make labour and daily tasks more efficient, allowing the normal work to be carried out in a fraction of the normal time.

And with digital technologies making home working, management, and production more efficient than ever before, many industry observers believe that the 4 day week is closer and more practically achievable than ever before.

What does it involve?

Put simply, the four-day week involves carrying out the same tasks within a 40-hour week within the space of four days rather than the conventional five.

This has been championed by mainstream parties, with Labour claiming to deliver a 32 hour week with no drop in productivity within 10 years.
This was delivered in direct response to the ‘flatlining’ in productivity that occurred in 2008 – roughly dovetailing with the rise in networking technologies that have now become commonplace in many businesses and have been leveraged by companies in the risks posed by the Covid 19 virus.

Interestingly, test runs have been met with considerable success. Microsoft Japan enjoyed a productivity spike of 60% when it was introduced and several British businesses have been switching to the format in recent years.

While there are a range of options available to business owners, there is no common agreement why this has taken place, with the issue commonly known as the ‘productivity puzzle’ in many circles.

Bearing this in mind, there are a number of positives and negatives attached with the four day week that are important to bear in mind.

What are the pros and cons?

While many early studies have produced positive results, there have been clear common pros and cons for both cases. These include-

Benefits

Stress Reduction

Employees have additional time to spend with families and loved ones, allowing them to enjoy a greater work-life balance. This can be great for employees starting families, dealing with issues outside of work and allows them to return to the office refreshed and positive.

Productivity

Staff are less likely to fall foul of Parkinson’s law, where work expands to fill available time. This also extends to innovations around productivity, letting you take advantage of technology and new working practices to help take a new approach to work.

Reduced Overheads

One less day of employees in the office automatically reduces overheads by
20%. This can allow you to take a more sustainable approach to your daily practice and ensure that your carbon footprint is also reduced.

Acquisition and Retention

Having an extra day off per week is a massive draw to skilled staff that are
looking to enjoy increased control over their work-life balance. This allows you a soft power advantage when it comes to recruitment and acts as a significant incentive for employees that may otherwise consider moving to another company or industry.

Drawbacks

Cost of Failure

Changing your weekly working practice can be prohibitively expensive and failing to see results can be a significant risk. Even trial programs cannot fully represent the problems that your teams will need to tackle, leaving you in a situation where long-term deployments are too cost-prohibitive to continue, causing disruption and drops in employee morale.

Practical Problems

Some industries will simply be unable to work under a reduced schedule. Many require the provision of continuous care or lack the practical infrastructure to manage scheduling or make it cost effective to carry out on a long-term basis.

Loss of Connectivity

One of the major issues facing the four day week – and remote working – is a lack of cohesion and connectivity with teams. Some approaches to daily work may vary and employees that want to work longer hours for a number of reasons may not be able to be fully facilitated.

Increased Pressure

Paradoxically, having a reduced working week can actually place more pressure on employees. Transitioning to a new style of working can be difficult for many professionals, particularly seasoned employees that may be set in their ways. This can bring discomfort, stress, and result in employees taking work home with them to complete their responsibilities.

Office worker sat at computer

What alternatives are there?

While the four-day week may be beyond your business for now. There are a range of options available to help trial a compressed workday or drive efficiency throughout your business. These include-

Remote Working: As recent requests to self-isolate have shown, businesses can still operate when team members are working from home. This can be due to any number of collaboration platforms which allow team members to communicate, share files, and work with as much efficiency as before.
Providing an employee with their own laptop can allow them to operate from home regularly with minimal disruption and give them greater freedom. However, this can be prohibitively expensive, and some employees may benefit more from working with others ‘in person’.

Flexitime

Allowing workers to dictate their schedule can give them a greater sense of agency and order their week accordingly to deal with key project tasks. This helps add greater work-life balance,
mitigates job stress, and provides a great halfway house between a four-day week and rigid contemporary practice. However, issues may arise with individuals accruing or losing flexi-time hours and it is vitally important to ensure there is a regulated process that makes it clear how and when
hours can be massaged – especially when it comes to handling large-scale projects and detailed client work.

Improved Infrastructure

If you’re still struggling to work efficiently, choosing a software package or
CMS system can help your teams work more effectively and ensure full contact when it matters most. Choosing a bespoke solution can allow you to directly address common issues and ensure you work at peak efficiency for as long as possible without placing extra stress on your teams. Despite
this, it is important to choose and validate your provider fully before committing to the use of any system. Failing to secure a reliable implementer can result in increased risk and being ‘locked in’ to a
platform that is not fully fit-for-purpose.

How can we help?

If you need additional help with managing your internal productivity, our team at Practical Software are here to help. With many years’ professional experience, we understand the importance of working with you to provide the bespoke support that will add value throughout your business.

You can view our list of services and software packages in full from here. Or if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team directly and let us know exactly what you need to improve your processes and productivity.

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An essential part of reconciliation for a number of businesses, correctly calculating the gender pay gap is vitally important. Failing to do so can lead to negative press at the best and lead to fines and penalties at worst.

So, what exactly is the gender pay gap and what is required in its calculation?

When did the gender pay gap start?

Brought into existence by the 2010 Equality act, this was designed to overtly protect individuals from discrimination, victimisation, or harassment in the workplace. This factors nine key characteristics-

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy and Maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or Belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Directly following on from the ground covered in the act, 2017 saw the creation of Gender Pay Gap Regulations. This act requires companies in Great Britain – but not Northern Ireland – to report on their payment figures as sorted by gender.

In a business that has less than 250 employees, they are not required to submit a report. However, they are free to provide an overview of their current payment figures and detail their commitment to equality. This includes those that are contracted to work with the business, agency workers, those that are self-employed, and any partners that add to the headcount for the business.

2020 will see the third iteration of the report, putting significant pressure on businesses to ensure full compliance with information requests. This is likely to cause traction with it being extremely likely to show a continued trend of inequality.

However, it is important to recognise that the gap can in some cases be due to voluntary action or the nature of everyday factors such as maternity leave. Despite this, it is vitally important to report, comment, and take action on any issues.

What is the gender pay gap?

The Gender Pay Gap (GPG) is the median or average difference between what male and female employees earn in a business. Specifically, it is a statistic that displays the difference in the delivery of hourly wages between men and women.

This is most commonly represented as a ratio or percentage differential, with men commonly being paid more than their female colleagues for carrying out the same role.

While there is currently no official process to enforce the non-disclosure, failure to comply with the directive is ‘unlawful’ and the process is policed by Equality and Human Right Commission (EHRC) which carries significant power to cause problems for businesses that fail to comply.

This process begins with an informal approach to press for information. If that is not provided, companies can be subject to ‘unlimited’ fines and convictions. Despite this, significant companies have chosen not to file – potentially preferring the bad publicity of failing to act over the censure of
significant inequality.

Information about the gender pay gap can be accessed through government sources letting individuals access high level information about the gap and segment the information by organisation size or industrial sector.

Why is there a gender pay gap?

Aside from fundamental gender inequality, the gap calculation is designed to provide insight and clarity into how employees are paid in a range of sectors.

In essence, the gap allows companies and countries to better understand the difference in pay between men and women in the marketplace. By highlighting this and allowing it to remain in regular discussion, this can help it stay in the public eye.

Information is added to a searchable index, with additional pressure placed on companies to not only conform but provide justification for any perceived issues or disparities with their gap in payment.

Unfortunately, analysing it and doing something meaningful about the gap are two entirely separate conversations. In December 2018, the World Economic Forum announced that it would take up to 202 years of concerted effort to effectively address the gap.

What causes the gender pay gap?

Fundamentally, the gender pay gap is caused by systemic bias in favour of male workers when it comes to renumeration. While the specific reasons vary from company to company, the 2019 figures saw that a staggering 78% of the UK’s biggest companies failed to achieve parity, producing statistics
that were transparently in favour of men. And fewer than half of UK firms managed to narrow the gap across the period.

However, there are a range of reasons that can also influence the findings. These include-

The Industry

Depending on the nature of the sector, there may be a significant division of labour when it comes to male/female roles. Known as ‘horizontal division’, this is highly prevalent in traditionally ‘male dominated’ fields such as the IT Sector, sciences, and industrial sectors, or manufacturing industries. While many initiatives are in place to help erode this bias, systemic issues
are still present.

Discrimination

Often women may be overlooked for a position in favour of a male colleague through conscious or unconscious bias. This can commonly take the form of male candidates being selected for traditionally ‘male’ roles.

Parenting

Maternity leave or ‘the motherhood penalty’ is seen as a major obstacle for individuals returning to work or upon their parental status. This can be self-determining with many lower paying jobs only offering the flexibility that motherhood requires, with many countries providing insufficient
paternity care and leave to provide additional support – potentially reinforcing unhealthy gender roles.

Normative action

One criticism is that individuals can face pressure or be socialised to
deterministically pick out roles that fit their gender. These can be reinforced by family, media, education; leading to employment in roles that are do not offer the same opportunities for advancement or progress offered by other positions.

If businesses need further information about addressing the gap, it can be accessed through official channels or by directly contacting the department.

How do I calculate it?

According to Government guidance, calculating the gap requires companies to provide-

  • The median and mean gap in hourly pay
  • The median and mean gap in bonus pay
  • The proportion of males and females receiving bonus pay
  • The proportion of males and females in each payment or salaried quartile

These can be provided as ‘whole’ percentages or figures rounded to one decimal point. While these figures may be straightforward to calculate, they do require the harvesting of key information from your payroll, known as your business’ ‘snapshot date’. Depending on the structure of your company, these need to be provided on the 5th of April for charities and businesses, or the 31st of March for those working in the public sector.

Each of these values requires the management of a number of figures that is not only time consuming but labour intensive. Once the figures have been checked and fully validated, each company is required to provide a
written statement confirming that the figures they provide are accurate and fully signed off by a high-ranking official in the business. This is also accompanied by a brief detailing the nature of any disparity and what they intend to do to resolve it. Once provided, this is then made publicly available via a PDF or ideally displayed prominently on the company’s website.

Brown Leather Wallet

Once provided, this data is then harvested and fed into regular reports. At the low level this allows for a critique of companies that fail to address issues and at the high level ensures a better understanding of sectoral issues – allowing it to shape governmental policy.

However, as with any process, it can cause human error which can potentially be damaging when dealing with such an important topic. Choosing a software platform can allow you to automate a great deal of the process – enabling you to update, amend and validate information to ensure that it is in full compliance with Gender Pay Gap legislation.

This also allows for the harvesting of key statistics and information, allowing you to take steps to address any disparity or help better understand where any inequality stems from. This can be a
significant soft power coup, helping you attract positive press, increase your reputation, and help attract a higher calibre of client and employee in the years ahead.

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There is a great deal of uncertainty around how businesses will continue to operate in the face of the challenges being caused by the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.  Clearly businesses do not like uncertainty and we would therefore like to reassure our current and potential clients that we are operating at full strength and will continue to do so as the situation develops and eventually improves.

All of our staff are working from home and we have all the necessary technology in place to ensure that we continue to provide the great personal service that we are proud of.  Our opening hours will remain unchanged and we will continue to provide support outside of our core hours via email and social channels.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to get in touch.

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